Are We Happy Yet?

Political Therapy

The art of mass disassociation.
Political Therapy: The art of mass disassociation

Nick Whalen

What if society can no longer resist the destructive effects of unbounded capitalism? What if society can no longer resist the devastating power of financial accumulation?

This article is available in:

We have to disentangle autonomy from resistance. And if we want to do that, we have to disentangle desire from energy. The prevailing focus of modern capitalism has been energy: the ability to produce, to compete, to dominate. A sort of energolatria, a cult of energy, has dominated the cultural sense of the West from Faust to the Futurists. The ever growing availability of energy has been its dogma. Now we know that energy isn’t boundless. In the social psyche of the West, energy is fading. I think we should reframe the concept and practice of autonomy from this point of view. The social body is unable to reaffirm its rights against the wild assertiveness of capital because the pursuit of rights can never be dissociated from the exercise of force.

When workers were strong in the 1960s and 1970s, they did not restrict themselves to asking for their rights, to peaceful demonstrations of their will. They acted in solidarity, refusing to work, redistributing wealth, sharing things, services, and spaces. Capitalists, on their side, do not merely ask or demonstrate, they do not simply declare their wish: they enact it. They make things happen; they invest, disinvest, displace; they destroy and they build. Only force makes autonomy possible in the relation between capital and society. But what is force? What is force nowadays?

The identification of desire with energy has produced the identification of force with violence that turned out so badly for the Italian movement in the 1970s and 1980s. We have to distinguish energy and desire. Energy is falling, but desire has to be saved. Similarly, we have to distinguish force from violence. Fighting power with violence is suicidal or useless nowadays. How can we think of activists going against professional organizations of killers in the mold of Blackwater, Haliburton, secret services, mafias?

Only suicide has proved to be efficient in the struggle against power. And actually suicide has become decisive in contemporary history. The dark side of the multitude meets here the loneliness of death. Activist culture should avoid the danger of becoming a culture of resentment. Acknowledging the irreversibility of the catastrophic trends that capitalism has inscribed in the history of society does not mean renouncing it. On the contrary, we have today a new cultural task: to live the inevitable with a relaxed soul. To call forth a big wave of withdrawal, of massive dissociation, of desertion from the scene of the economy, of nonparticipation in the fake show of politics. The crucial focus of social transformation is creative singularity. The existence of singularities is not to be conceived as a personal way to salvation, they may become a contagious force.

When we think of the ecological catastrophe, of geopolitical threats, of economic collapse provoked by the financial politics of neoliberalism, it’s hard to dispel the feeling that irreversible trends are already at work within the world machine. Political will seems paralyzed in the face of the economic power of the criminal class.

The age of modem social civilization seems on the brink of dissolution, and it’s hard to imagine how society will be able to react. Modern civilization was based on the convergence and integration of the capitalist exploitation of labor and the political regulation of social conflict. The regulator state, the heir of the Enlightenment and socialism, has been the guarantor of human rights and the negotiator of social equilibrium. When, at the end of a ferocious class struggle between labor and capital – and within the capitalist class itself – the financial class has seized power by destroying legal regulation and transforming social composition, the entire edifice of modern civilization has begun to crumble.

I anticipate that scattered insurrections will take place in the coming years, but we should not expect much from them. They’ll be unable to touch the real centers of power because of the militarization of metropolitan space, and they will not be able to gain much in terms of material wealth or political power. Just as the long wave of counterglobalization’s moral protests could not destroy neoliberal power, so the insurrections will not find a solution, not unless a new consciousness and sensibility surfaces and spreads, changing everyday life and creating Non-Temporary Autonomous Zones rooted in the culture and consciousness of the global network.

The proliferation of singularities (the withdrawal and building of Non-Temporary Autonomous Zones) will be a peaceful process, but the conformist majority will react violently, and this is already happening. The conformist majority is frightened by the fleeing away of intelligent energy and simultaneously is attacking the expression of intelligent activity. The situation can be described as a fight between the mass ignorance produced by media totalitarianism and the shared intelligence of the general intellect.

We cannot predict what the outcome of this process will be. Our task is to extend and protect the field of autonomy and to avoid as much as possible any violent contact with the field of aggressive mass ignorance. This strategy of nonconfrontational withdrawal will not always succeed. Sometimes confrontation will be made inevitable by racism and fascism. It’s impossible to predict what should be done in the case of unwanted conflict. A nonviolent response is obviously the best choice, but it will not always be possible. The identification of well-being with private property is so deeply rooted that a barbarization of the human environment cannot be completely ruled out. But the task of the general intellect is exactly this: fleeing from paranoia, creating zones of human resistance, experimenting with autonomous forms of production using high-tech low-energy methods – while avoiding confrontation with the criminal class and the conformist population.

Politics and therapy will be one and the same activity in the coming years. People will feel hopeless and depressed and panicky because they are unable to deal with the post-growth economy, and because they will miss their dissolving modern identity. Our cultural task will be attending to those people and taking care of their insanity, showing them the way to a happy adaptation. Our task will be the creation of social zones of human resistance that act like zones of therapeutic contagion. The development of autonomy is not totalizing or intended to destroy and abolish the past. Like psychoanalytic therapy it should be considered an unending process.

Franco Bifo Berardi is a revolutionary Italian philosopher and activist. This essay originally appeared in his newly translated book, After the Future.

39 comments on the article “Political Therapy”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 39

Page 3 of 4

Anonymous

Things worth doing take time. Nothing is happening tomorrow, but maybe the day after. The future isn't always clear, sometimes the fog can work to our advantage. If only people could figure that out for a minute and realize even when they've got it, they're just holding a handful of sand and a broken hour glass.

Allofus

http://www.nytimes.com/1993/05/02/style/tripping-but-not-falling.html?scp=1&sq=+tryptamine&st=nyt

Wow there used to be journalists at the New York times. Now there are just bloggers constructing shallow gossip columns out of snippets of chatter they piece together by randomly copying and pasting the audacity of hope, computer programming manuals, and daniel steel novels. Its really cutting edge crap, its so good they gotta charge people money to get the full times experience. Like sands through the hour glass, these are the days of our lives...

Thats the level of reporting that goes on, thats what the New York Times is; backwashed soap opera scripts digestible to idiots and wannabe normal people who stutter when they breathe and compulsively check their pockets for the keys they may have lost. Lets all hit the beeper on our car alarm when we run into the liquor store for 4 minutes, just in case Shreck Ali al zakawazaki comes by and blows us up because we are all special delicate snow flakes and if the terrorists are coming they are coming for me. Because I am so very important, I need my styles section to tell me how things are and how they ought to be wrapped up completely in the superficialities of the fading day. Hold onto to the rails of the sinking ship, polishing brass on the Titanic with Martha Stewart. Its really something how media creates and shapes our minds. Its almost like once you know its happening it already too late. Wittgenstein had a thought experiment about aliens playing a game and as onlookers watching, how would we ever know if the rules they were playing by at that time were the usual rules, or the correct rules, or if the game even had rules at all. People wear this fallacy all to often in our modern world, snap judgements and incomplete shallow assessments; we think we know something about what is what, adhere to whatever dogma, perception, or addiction keeps us in tune with what we want to believe. But all we know about it's what they sold us. So keep on selling that shit, stuff it in our fat fucking faces. We are the emanations of Steve Job's shadows, his dystopian creations, fostered visions left incomplete technofantasy orwellian nightmare scenario manifest. Informational manipulation and all points control scheme for the co-opting of the natural mind with some kind of stutter spark replica's; Too insecure to trust our own judgements, we crave the fear, we crave the unknown large disasters and calamity, something to placate the anxieties generated by the media and enacted by our militaries sworn to protect us and uphold the laws of democratic societies; under control by cabals driven by power and wealth. No questions worth asking are summed up with dissonant factoids and binary data streams. We have lost something, and you and I, we, all of us know something has changed through our incursion into the digital realm. We are longing for something, but its so hard to remember anything, thats why we have google and wikipedia, and devices to carry our brains around with us. I don't need a study to tell me whats up, I just look towards the sky. The little details illuminate the larger picture of a civilization in decline. Endemic fear and distrust, when people can't speak without clearing their throats in a gesture of insecure reinforcement of the words they just said, when we breathe with a stutter. The root systems of our social and biological functioning are being quickly compromised by the modern technological paradigm. We are losing our humanity and it is being replaced with a sterilized sanitized version fit for consumption. It generates massive amounts of wealth for some. This is a question of new ethics and how we proceed from here, how does one conduct oneself in a civilization which has forgotten how to be? The difference between price and value. What is our humanity worth to us? Coming back to the parking lot, I see the well to do and poor zombies alike clicking their alarms, looking around to make sure no one notices the flash of fretting concern over remote possibilities; But it doesn't matter the fear is so pervasive, at home you can just change the channel. I can feel the crisis all around me, this scene isn't funny its all too real.

Anonymous

Their is no permission for us to act in defiance of things we know are leading us to places we don't want to go. There is only choice from strength and understanding, or from weakness and confusion. The latter accept things as they are, would accept fascism if it came in a pretty package with a ribbon on it. Would deny the wrongs they see as long as the veneer of their obsessive security neurosis was maintained. Things are not as they used to be. The future will differ from now.

Anonymous

We are made to forget our true natures from birth we are sculpted in the forms of our civilizations values.
Any civilization will be conditioned by its past and its people's and its technology, but all will have a shared sense of identity by way of language, ethnicity, religion, geography, socioeconomic class. But whatever civilization at whatever time, always a certain collective identity arises through the chaos of time and process. What is given up for this collective identity as Romans, or Mayans, or 21st century technology driven nation states, is the sense of a deeper collective identity which has an archaic lineage further than recorded history. What we left behind is debatable. What is mildly tragic is that some people are so entrenched in their conditioning that they would refuse the science of evolution, actually allot of people. There is a spiritual crisis emerging in the modern world and I think the notions of religion and terrorism often cross-over not just because of extremism but because of the fears which are generated as a result of technological paradigm shifts which are happening more rapidly than our societies can adapt. The fear enters a feedback loop with the zealotry, both are responses to confusion of our times. Civilizations reach points of collapse due to many factors, the last one usually being inept leadership, poor seeing on the part of monarchs and parliaments, senates and councils. In Germany after world war 2 children who were used to thrusting their arms in the air had to be retaught that everything they taught was wrong, and to never raise their arms. The myth perpetuates the civilization, if it is powerful enough it can last for maybe 2000 years. Religions are much like civilizations in the sense they undergo collapse. When the belief in the myth can no longer be sustained - apparent as Russian tanks in Berlin, or American tanks in Baghdad- when now is evident there is only the pragmatic awareness of things. This is why religion is in the state that it is, our civilizations myths are dying faster than we can bury them. They add up and more rhetoric, and more pressure, more war and further chaos is needed to sustain the corpse of a mythology. And the net sum of this refusal to meet the future with a pragmatic mindset results in unnecessary suffering. From birth our true nature is lost and instead we are wrapped in the security of culture and civilization, reinforced with doings and mythology. But inside of our dreams, within our collective memory, resonating in our Dna are the keys to a future beyond our knowing, where we have come from, where we will go. In the end our need, our innate inquisitive curiosity towards the enigmatic and mysterious will conquer our fears, doubts and denial and bring us into the future unknown.

Anonymous

FREDDIE MAC BET AGAINST THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Let’s Make Sure They Don’t Steal Another Home!

On December 6th occupiers stayed in Art de los Santos' Riverside home to help defend his Family against foreclosure. This is the next step in the fight to save their home.

What: Rally to Protest Freddie Mac’s Outrageous Bets against America
When: Thursday, February 2; 11:30 a.m.
Where: Freddie Mac Western Region Office
444 S. Flower St., Downtown LA (Corner of 5th & Flower, meet in front of Citibank building)

LOCATION:
Freddie Mac Western Region Office
444 S. Flower St, Los Angeles, CA

DATE:
Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 11:30am to 2:30pm

http://www.occupylosangeles.org/?q=node/7587

freedividual

#OWS Week – Program 2 Aired Live 2/1/12 on PressTV - This interview took place on January 5, 2012. You can see in the background of the interview, that at that time there had been 5,858 arrests at Occupy’s around the United States. Today February 2, 2012, we can see that the number has increased to 6,464. As its stands today, in less that a month, there has been an additional 606 arrests.
http://freedividual.com/2012/02/02/ows-week-program-2-aired-live-2112-on-presstv/

Lets get the word out! Post on facebook, Twitter, email your friends and place on other social networks like current.com, reddit.com and digg.com - Thank you! = : )

Nevermind_Anonymous

Can't help but ask...

...when was the last time some writer who had to insert the name 'Faust' into an article to give it credibility, spent an hour a week of their free time volunteering at the local old folks home? Or delivering for Meals On Wheels? Or volunteering at an animal shelter to clean up piss and shit? Or....nevermind. No more uncomftorable questions.

However, I'm thinking for the majority of Adbusters column contributors, it's slim to none.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.